I am on my way back from an adventure in New York City revolving around the launch of the Microsoft Surface tablet. I got to town during rush hour and meandered to Times Square and was surprised to see Windows 8 kiosks setup all over the place. From there I wandered around mid town for a while, even spent some time at a Microsoft Blogger meetup, but did not know anyone, oh well.
But the star of the evening was the new Microsoft Surface
, which if you don't know if Microsoft's new tablet. Tonight was the first time low men on the tot um pole like me could get our hands on one. I eventually made my way back to Times Square and to my surprise found a line to get into the new Microsoft Store! I was #237. The store opened roughly 9:45 give or take. I was outside the store till nearly 11:30.
Once I got in I was high fived by some of the staff and greeted by Troy who escorted me directly to the back of the store where I could finally try out a Surface RT, Windows 8 running on ARM. It was a really great, while sort of rushed experience. He made sure I had both keyboard styles; touch and type covers. I tried both styles out and really liked the touch cover better. It was extremely easy to use, I thought the type cover was a little less natural.
One thing that did impress me was typing standing up. Usually this causes me grief, but I found it very natural. I am not sure if this was a product of the store counter height or the touch cover.
Overall the Touch and Type cover experience was great. I was really happy to see I could just swap them out and they just worked. No blue tooth pairing required. That is a big deal to me, I have had many issues with blue tooth pairing in my days! The ease at which they just snap onto the tablet is great too, there is just no way I could see anyone messing that up.
I have been using Windows 8 on an Acer Iconia since March as well as my laptop and desktops since August, so there was nothing from the OS or apps themselves I was really looking for on the Surface. I was looking for how well the applications performed. I was not disappointed either. Very fast and fluid experience, I know that is corny, but its true.
I played some games, watched some movie trailers and used Microsoft Office. All the apps and animations were without hesitation, they all loaded quickly. This was the first time I have used the snap view on a tablet and that was pretty cool to experience. The store must have some serious Wifi because I was streaming some movie trailers as were many others around me and they were seamless.
I am so glad they are including Microsoft Office; Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with the Surface RT. This proves it is more than just an entertainment and data consumption device. And make no mistake the version of Office on the RT is the same Office 2013 many of us have been using for the past few month. It runs in the desktop and they are the only apps that run on the desktop on the Surface RT. This means Microsoft went to the trouble of compiling versions of these apps that run on the ARM processor. Remember the Surface RT is an ARM based machine so it cannot run legacy x86 based applications, a fresh start.
I was also happy to have the kickstand. This is something I have been wanting on my iPad since I got it. My Smart Cover is nice, but it is clumsy to touch when I have it standing up. It also falls over way too easily. The Surface kickstand is designed to overcome the issues with the iPad. The kickstand is also important in combination with the Touch and Type Covers because it makes it a super thin, highly productive tool to rival ultabooks.
From what I could tell from some of the other tablets I observed and handled at some of the kiosks they do not have this problem solved, which to me says they are a no go. I had heard good things about the Acer Iconia with Windows 8, but they have a very clumsy docking station and no way to prop them up. I saw the one in Times Square propped up against the kiosk, which said a lot to me why the Surface kickstand is so valuable.
Another thing I like about the Surface compared to the iPad, and I keep referencing the iPad because the Android tablets just don't cut it and I have several, is the ports. It has USB, MicroSD (high density) and HDMI support. This means I can plug this into many periperals (think printer and scanner) as well as easily add more storage.
Did I buy a Surface RT? No, but not for lack of wanting to buy one. $600 (plus New York City sales tax) is a bit steep for me right now. Personally the RT would be a 3 month device, making it really expensive. I am waiting for a Surface Pro and now I can say that is a solid choice for me. The reason, I need to run Visual Studio, WebMatrix and a slew of other development tools.
For normal, typical computer/tablet user the Surface RT is a fantastic device with many advantages over the iPad. The iPad has a single port and no support for MicroSD, etc. The Surface does. The iPad has blue tooth keyboards and other third party tools that could make it more comparable to the Surface Touch Pad and kickstand, but from my experience they are no where near as ergonomic or have that just work experience.
I can solidly say I highly recommend the Microsoft Surface RT for the average computer user. If you think about it, even in the enterprise the Surface RT is a sufficent device. Not everyone needs to run all the legacy software built for the x86 processor. Many line of business client applications are web applications, not all, but many. And they should run fairly well in IE 10. Including Excel, Word and PowerPoint covers a broad segment of the typical business person's needs. Of course e-mail support is included, maybe not the best. But I have to tell you from personal experience Office 365 is pretty darn compelling in the browser iteself. Personally I am holding out for the Surface Pro, but for the general consumer and business person I am going to recommend the Surface RT.